About

This is where I work, overlooking the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.

I’m both self-published and fortunate enough to be published by a superb independent publisher: Fantastic Books Publishing.  You’ll find our collaborations on their site as well as on my ‘Published Work’ page here. There is also a group run by and for the writers for Fantastic Books Publishing, where you can discover other great new writing. This link will take you to that page. 

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I’ve been writing for a long time, and reading even longer. As a child – a few centuries ago – I was raised in a household without TV. This meant I entertained myself, my brother, sister, and friends, with invented stories that we’d then act out in our games. I also read a good deal. By the age of eleven I’d exhausted the local children’s library and approached the formidable librarian, Hilda, who ran the place, to ask if I might now borrow books from the adult section, normally available only at age 14. She glared down at me but, knowing I always looked after books, allowed me a trial period. I was to select one book at a time and pass it to her for approval. It says something about this guardian of knowledge and imagination that she allowed my initial choice without demur. That first book? All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. For those unfamiliar with this World War 1 classic, it contains explicit descriptions of the fighting, association with prostitutes, and a fair degree of the foul language used by soldiers. Having got that book through her censor’s filter, I felt I could probably read anything I wanted to. And so it turned out.

During my secondary education, I was fortunate enough to be taught English by a delightful Irish lady called Stella Kelsall. A chain-smoking, decorative woman with a penchant for low-cut blouses; her habit of leaning over the desk when talking to teenage boys was no doubt partly responsible for my developing an interest in language as a means of self-expression. I won the Redfern Cup at fourteen, an award for that year’s best story (we referred to these pieces of writing as ‘compositions’). The story was a piece of fictionalised tension-filled mystery based on an event that happened when on a school trip. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that was my first step on the road to becoming a writer.

As a teenager, I entertained my younger brother with stories made up on the hoof, ostensibly as a way of getting him to sleep. However, the frequent laughter caused Mum to call up to remind me I was supposed to be calming rather than exciting him. The one drawback to telling tales without preparation turned out to be his frequent requests for me to repeat the previous night’s story. I had to ask him to remind me and I’d then attempt a retelling of the tale, though how close it was to the original is anybody’s guess! It turned out to be a great apprenticeship for my later writing of fiction.

I suffer under the serious disadvantage for a writer of having had a fairly idyllic childhood. My parents loved me. I had siblings who were also friends. I spent a magical couple of years living on the clifftop in a converted railway wagon, still on its wheels, and walked to school along the beach. But later life sort of made up for that initial blessing. My father died 3 weeks before I was born. My mother, an artist, remarried when I was 5 years old but was killed in a road accident 2 days after my 16th birthday. A loss that deeply affected the whole family. My step-father, not responsible for the crash, was driving and never fully recovered from that incident, though he went on to marry his secretary some years later. My mother’s death seriously affected my school exams, taken just a couple of weeks after the event.

As a result, I joined the Royal Air Force, which was a big mistake. However, the physical training, which included a voluntary venture into boxing and rugby, increased my size and fitness. I left at 19 and began a succession of jobs in various roles. I also married my first wife, who had been my girlfriend when at school. 18 years of that marriage ended after constant and unjustified accusations of infidelity became too much to bear: I’ve loved 2 women and both of them I married.

My first writing successes were in the form of illustrated articles for the British photographic press but my initial fiction success was a radio play, broadcast on the national radio programme; BBC Radio 4. Since then, I’ve published novels, short stories, a novella and and a memoir about my 10 years with ME/CFS. (You can find a list of all my published work by clicking this link). I’m fully recovered from that dreadful condition and ran in the Great North Run in September 2015; a half marathon I used as a means of raising money for the charity that helped me through the illness.

I’m now happily married to my darling Valerie, who I met on a training course (Managing Change!). We have a lovely daughter, Kate, who is a bit of a wanderer. She’s worked here in UK and on the Greek island of Thassos, and is currently working in Darwin, Australia.

So, you know a bit about me now. I hope you’ll enjoy my site and my books. I write to entertain and because I’m compelled by some inner voice to put words on paper and tell stories in the tradition that’s been with humankind ever since we first sat around those fires in the mouths of our caves. Enjoy. We really do come this way but once and it behoves us to make the experience the best it can be for ourselves and for those we come into contact with.

17 thoughts on “About

  1. I enjoyed reading your About page. You have a light dry humor I believe as demonstrated a few times in your summary. I admire writers who can share their humor and am glad to have found your blog via a friend. – David

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, David. My Mum was always full of humour and my stepdad, who worked for some years as a sales rep, always had funny stories to tell. It’s humour that gets us through the hard stages of life, and lightens the emotional load. Our current situation with this pandemic is so much less traumatic for Valerie and I simply because of our residence in the forest and our deep love for each other. I feel so sorry for so many currently trapped in circumstances that must be sheer hell. Anything I can do to help lighten the load for them must be worth the effort.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Dear Mr Stuart Aken,

      I have come here again to read your self-introduction, and I concur with Mr David Folstad about your “light dry humour”, noting my English spelling of the h-word. You have indeed lived a full life and have been a prolific writer fulfilling one of your major callings in life.

      Regarding the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire where you work, I recall that the Dean of Gloucester banned Edward Elgar’s composition entitled “Gerontius” from his cathedral in 1901, nearly 120 years ago, and then at Worcester in 1902, for the Dean insisted on applying censorship through expurgations (or bowdlerizations) to purge anything that he reckoned to be noxious or offensive from Elgar’s work before allowing a performance.

      Another good example regarding musical connections is that one of Edward Elgar’s students taught the late Alan Lane, who is not only the father of the acclaimed pianist Piers Lane (an ex-student of Nancy Weir) but also one of my esteemed music theory teachers at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (formerly the Queensland Conservatorium of Music). In other words, I am both delighted and grateful to know and realize that in my case, the pedagogical line of teacher-student educational influence and musical connection can reach back all the way to the British composer Edward Elgar and beyond, just as I have now found the connections and common interests between us through our respective websites and our both knowing something about Gloucester and Gloucestershire.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting on my post entitled “💨 Strong Wind Knows Tough Grass 🌾 疾風知勁草”. To remove some typos, I have slightly amended my bespoke reply to your comment. The first paragraph of my reply now reads as follows:

      Thank you for being so generous to indulge SoundEagle🦅 with the pleasure of perusing your comment, which delivers your measured observation of the validity and quality of the analysis on the quoted poem “疾風知勁草,昏日辨誠臣。勇夫安識義,智者必懷仁。”. In fact, the post has been further improved since your last visit.

      If you would kindly allow me to be so bold as to offer you one of my resources in the form of a very detailed guideline or blueprint that I have made available to writers. It is published at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/manuscript/

      The said “Manuscript Assessment Criteria” page provides a complete checklist for writers to evaluate and inspect their own works (either by themselves or with a group of readers or editors) before submitting their manuscripts to publishers, and also during successive edits after the previous submission(s) and before the next submission.

      Please kindly let me know what you think of the Manuscript Assessment Criteria by leaving a comment there, especially if you think that it could be improved in one way or the other.

      Like

  2. Thank you so much for stopping by my little blog and clicking ‘like’. Of course, I have to check out any visitors that happen to find me, and I feel so fortunate to have crossed cyber paths with you.

    I love getting to know you from your ‘about’ page. What an interesting and purposeful life you are leading! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Miriam. I’m a geat believer in truth. Honesty is a vital quality to a writer of fiction, since we spend our lives inventing lies to entertain people. I felt honesty here was the only way. And honest writing, of course, doesn’t mean we have to stick to the truth in our stories, only in our reporting of facts.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Patty. Interesting? Certainly been challenging at times, and I’ve rarely been bored! But I count myself fortunate in my choice of parents. And my wife and daughter are both wonderful. As for the ‘open’ aspect, I’m a great believer in honesty, which is the foundation of my fiction as well.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment, MissUnderstood. Of course, I had no say in the lack of TV when I was a child. But I also spent a period of my adult life without one. These days, there is so much information in the form of documentaries that can take you to places you’d never otherwise visit, that I treasure it for that aspect of its output. There is, of course, a huge amount of utter rubbish there as well. But it’s our choice whether and when we press that button and in what direction we point the arrow targeting the channels!

      Liked by 2 people

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